Ziad for the Defense

When Saddam Hussein goes on trial, he will not lack for legal defenders. Heading his team at the moment is a man named Ziad al-Khasawneh

Amid the secrecy and confusion that surround the coming trials of Saddam Hussein and his lieutenants, in Baghdad, a defense committee has formed that is said to consist of 2,000 volunteer lawyers from around the world. A few of those lawyers reside in Iraq. But because of the dangers there for anyone associated with the trials, the committee is based in neighboring Jordan, in the capital city of Amman. It derives its authority from permissions signed by the family of the deposed dictator, and later by Saddam himself, in confinement. Despite circumstantial evidence that it enjoys significant funding, the committee insists that it works for free. It was founded in reaction to the public humiliation suffered by Saddam Hussein upon his arrest in December of 2003, when he was exhibited on global television as a disheveled and defeated man. The committee's lead attorney, a dignified, gray-haired Jordanian named Ziad al-Khasawneh, recently told me in Amman that the circumstances of the arrest were a sham—that in reality Saddam had been captured several months earlier while praying in a house near Tikrit, and that the Americans had fed him drugs and let his hair grow long before pretending to find him in a hole. He also told me that the tsunami of last December had wiped out 20,000 U.S. soldiers whose deaths had been hidden by the Pentagon; that the invasion of Iraq was the product of a Zionist plot whose purpose was the annihilation of the Iraqi people; and that Yasser Arafat had been fatally poisoned by the CIA. Further on the subject of hidden casualties, he said that the American toll in Iraq is much higher than has been acknowledged, and that dead soldiers are routinely stripped of their valuables and identities and dumped from low-flying aircraft into the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. He said that you can go to certain places at night and see the body bags falling. He said that he knows of a goatherd who discovered the secret place in the desert where the valuables are dumped, and who has since become rich by harvesting all the watches and rings. I listened with interest, not only because Mr. Ziad earnestly holds such beliefs, but also because his willingness to express them serves to some degree as a measure of their acceptability in the Middle East. Certainly Saddam, who has long been admired for his strength, is increasingly seen as a hero of the resistance, and maybe a tragic one. Ziad spoke of him with nearly filial love, as the Caring One. He had pride in his eyes. He explained that the defense committee's mandate, which was originally restricted to Saddam and his "comrades," had been widened by order of Saddam himself, who upon his first prison meeting with a lawyer, on December 16, 2004, declared that the team would henceforth be known as The Defense and Support Committee of President Saddam Hussein, His Comrades, and All POWs and Detainees in Iraq. This demonstrates, according to Ziad, that Saddam is a selfless man, dedicated to the well-being of his people. It is a view that will lie at the heart of most of the defense arguments in court. And the surprise is that with exceptions made for Saddam's obvious megalomania and the distortions caused by absolute power, the view will be difficult to prove wrong.

In English the initials for the committee are DSCPSHCPDI, which makes for poor acronyms no matter how the letters are stirred. For simplicity I have thought of "Committee for the Defense," or COD, but this is insufficiently specific, and with its evocation of a fish it would hardly do. In any case, English-speakers do not constitute the important audience for these trials. In Arabic Ziad has done better. He calls the committee ISNAD, an acronym that reflects some descriptive words, means "support," and has a useful religious significance: in Muslim belief an isnad is the chain of transmission or authority necessary to legitimize any of the Hadith. The Hadith are accounts of the words or actions of the Prophet, which along with the Koran provide rules for living, and form the basis of Islamic law. The law that will be applied by the Iraqi Special Tribunal is not Islamic. It consists of court procedures and rules of evidence that are largely Iraqi (and historically based on European models), and of substantive laws imported into Iraq from international courts by the American occupation authorities in 2004 for this single, strictly bounded use: laws pertaining to genocide, crimes against humanity, and the violations of the Geneva Conventions loosely known as war crimes. These laws are explicitly secular, as will be the punishments that are meted out—in the extreme, death by gunshot or hanging, rather than by the stroke of a sword or the impact of stones. Like Saddam Hussein, Ziad is more of an old-fashioned pan-Arab socialist than he is any sort of new-wave Islamist. Nonetheless, even an oblique reference to faith is helpful in these parts, and with his use of the name ISNAD, Ziad demonstrates a nice touch.

Beyond that, however, his grasp seems uncertain. In fairness to him, the terrain he must operate on is murky and viciously politicized. To the management question of how in the world to use 2,000 volunteer lawyers, most of whom are Arab and almost none of whom dare to go to Iraq, the best answer is not to use them at all—and this, by appearances, Ziad is doing well enough. On several occasions we talked after hours in his small office suite, on an avenue named after the Jordanian queen, in a middle-class district of Amman. Ziad is a very short man with a large potbelly. Because his face is regular, these attributes become apparent only when he stands up, at which point they come as a surprise. With me he sat behind his desk most of the time. He wore a suit and tie. His desk was neat but not empty. In addition to some stacks of paper it held an office telephone, a portable telephone, and, to one side, a laptop computer firmly connected to the Internet by a high-speed line. We drank strong, sweet coffee and once ate pastries baked by his wife. He does not smoke, which is rare for these parts. His assistants came and went, sat with us, and helped with translations. Messages arrived by phone and e-mail indicating that members of the committee were holding local meetings and issuing resolutions of solidarity. I did not doubt that these emotions mattered. But 2,000 lawyers? I asked Ziad how they had been selected. He prevaricated at first, but later said in essence that they had selected themselves, by signing on. I pressed him to describe of what practical use they were proving to be.

Their support is heartening, he said.


And in practice there are about twenty-five who form a core team, and among whom the real work has been divided. They include several lawyers in Baghdad of Iraqi nationality—this being a statutory requirement for practicing before the special tribunal. One of those is an attorney named Khalil al-Dulaimi, who was the first to see Saddam Hussein, last December, and who then came under threat of death and has since gone into hiding; the others in Iraq, whose visits to the defendants have been extremely limited, have wisely kept a lower profile—indeed, they remain anonymous for now. In contrast, a few on the team outside Iraq are clearly drawn to the limelight—as one might expect with any such high-visibility trial. One of them is the former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, claimed by ISNAD as a prominent member, who when I went to see him last year—an elegant old man in an elegant residence on elegant Ile Saint Louis—had nothing of substance to say, and was clearly just enjoying the attention. More significant, perhaps, the team includes Muammar Qaddafi's glamorous daughter Aisha, who at age twenty-seven teaches law in Tripoli, calls herself Doctor, and happens (unlike her father) to be possessed of an unusual Riviera-style beauty. Aisha seems to be positioning herself to succeed her father as Libya's leader. She once appeared with Nelson Mandela on television, and several years before the American invasion she flew to Iraq bearing gifts for its beleaguered people in self-important protest of the international sanctions then in place. Others on the team are privately embarrassed by her presence—including a French lawyer named Emmanuel Ludot, who winced when I mentioned Aisha's participation to him in Paris. Ludot himself, however, seems to be a rather questionable asset. He is the author of a wildly revisionist argument published last year in French as Saddam Hussein: Presumed Guilty, which to the extent that it reflects a plan for the defense, signals big trouble ahead for the accused. More reasonable-sounding is the former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, who has joined the team, and who, despite his reputation for poor political judgment in the past (for instance, he served as legal counsel to Saddam's regime), makes the obvious but important point that fair trials in Baghdad are now in America's interest, and that Saddam and his lieutenants must be well defended.

With Ziad in Amman, I kept trying to get back to this idea of the real preparations being made. Repeatedly I asked him to explain to me as much as he could about the logic and tactics of the defense. He said that he would, and gladly, but he continued to speak in generalities, starting with his belief in the rule of law, and lingering over the illegality of the American invasion of Iraq—a point, as he said, that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has also made. Since the invasion was illegal, Ziad said, everything that has followed has been illegitimate, including the Iraqi governments installed by the Americans, and the bastard child called the Iraqi Special Tribunal. Saddam Hussein is the victim of raw imperial aggression. He is innocent, and on both moral and legal grounds he should not even stand trial. He remains the president of Iraq.

Ziad said, "Every day a lot of letters come to this office about this issue, because it is not just a defense of Saddam Hussein in person. It is also a defense of the Arab nation, and of humanity in general. This trend of aggression matters to every country, and it may matter inside the USA! Inside the USA! I know that Mr. Bush has executed about a hundred and twenty people in Texas. And this cowboy mentality now spreads into the whole world. We cannot accept a universe that is run according to the power of power, not the power of law!"

I said, "Right."

He said, "We seek to defend all peoples against the aggressions of America!"

"Okay, but …"

"Haram!" he said, meaning "forbidden by God." "Do you know what haram means?"

"I do."

Moments later he said, "Regarding the prosecution charges that we have learned about from the Internet, they do not apply to the laws that existed before the occupation. The constitution gives the president complete immunity. So we believe that the United States is in a legal crisis, in addition to its military crisis in Iraq."

He seemed to be challenging the retroactive nature of the charges—the fact that genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes were not addressed by Iraqi law at the time that the acts are alleged to have been committed. It is not an issue to be cheaply dismissed, particularly for a national court in a civil-law tradition like Iraq's, where customary behavior is given little weight, and the criminalization of acts is expected to be codified. Certainly the concept that there is no crime without law (nullum crimen sine lege) has provided historical protections against what Ziad calls the power of power. Nonetheless, if Ziad plans to use this as a practical argument, he will be trying to cover ground that international criminal law has in recent decades repeatedly gone around. I said, "But where are you going to make that argument? In which court?"

He said, "From the start as a defense committee we have considered all kinds of courts. Anyhow, if there is a trial, we will make every challenge. If the tribunal is impartial and just, it will take our point of view."

"But do you think the tribunal is going to be just?"

"Certainly not!"

I said, "Saddam will be tried and convicted."

He said, "We see the light at the end of the tunnel."

"What is that light?"

"We believe that there is a feeling of shame among the American people. This is the light we mean."

"You're going to rely on the American people?"

He said, "Yes. All the law-loving people in America will stand on the side of justice."

I said, "I think they think that Saddam Hussein is guilty of killing people. I think they would be very much against Saddam's going free."

He mentioned the importance of Ramsey Clark to his strategy. A very famous man. He also said that he himself would carry the message to the United States. "I wish to go to America to talk to the media, the newspapers, the magazines. To say to the many people of America, and to the American Congress, that they must stand on the side of justice and rightness."

"Are you going to go to the United States now?"

"I am trying, but until now I can't get a visa."

I tacked. "Okay, if Saddam is released—let's say the American courts decide this has been an illegal detention, and he must be released. What do you think will happen to him? Where will he go? What will he do?"

"He should return to his position. Until this moment he is the legitimate president. Now, if you can imagine! American soldiers leave Iraq, and President Saddam is released from prison! You can imagine the result!"

"No. I can't imagine. I don't know Iraq that well. Tell me."

"He will take over again! Remember the case of Charles de Gaulle. De Gaulle with the Vichy government was like Saddam with the Allawi government. And history is everything!"

"But do you think the Iraqis want Saddam back as president?"

"After what they witnessed in Abu Ghraib, and the acts of stealing, the acts of violence—after the occupation in general—they will like Saddam more than before. And the destruction of towns, and of cities like Fallujah. And the bombings. Also the radioactivity. A lot of people are coming to me now and saying, "Those were the good days, when Saddam was our leader!"

I said, "Two thoughts come to mind. The first is that Saddam himself took power in an extralegal, or illegal, way. He did it through force of arms."

"And he will return by force! Armed resistance!"

"But that's not the rule of law."

Forbearingly he said, "This is the Third World. It is not unusual."

I said, "Okay, now my second thought. Yes, the Iraqis see all the problems with the occupation that you have been talking about."


"And they do remember that under Saddam there was order."

"There was security!"

"But they also remember that he killed many people."

"It is not true!"

"Not true?"

Ziad was practically triumphant. He said, "Did anyone see him killing people? That is the problem!"

But what about conspiracy? What about command responsibility? These are actionable concepts that will permeate the trials. I thought it was time to make some accommodations to culture. I realized that Ziad is not a stupid man. I decided we needed a break.

In practice Ziad is as good an attorney as Saddam and his family are likely to find. This is paradoxical, because Ziad is stuck in Jordan, far from the evidence and the defendants, and Iraq is a country brimming with lawyers, many of whom despite the dangers would like to be involved. The problem is that after three decades of totalitarian rule, during which the law served as hardly more than a veneer, Iraqi lawyers have been weakened to the point where many now seem to have difficulty applying themselves to anything at all. The effects can be seen in the confusion and inefficiency that have characterized the creation of the Iraqi Special Tribunal: to the private frustration of their American advisers, many Iraqi judges and prosecutors have spent the past year stumbling over simple legal concepts, and otherwise mostly just sitting around the tribunal offices, reading newspapers and drinking tea. Among the defense attorneys I've met in Baghdad the scene is equally dismal. For instance, at the U.S.-established Central Criminal Court, where insurgents and other prisoners accused of the most serious crimes are taken to be tried, public defenders typically first meet their clients during the investigative phase of the trial. With no advance knowledge of a case, they hardly bother to thumb the paperwork, let alone to intervene with forceful representations. On the occasions when they might normally visit people in prison—say, to investigate allegations of torture or other violations of their clients' rights—they have to travel at their own expense through the war zone, and afterward to run the even greater risk of police reprisals. And for what? They earn fifteen dollars an appearance, and barely scrape by. It is hard to summon the clarity necessary for legal reasoning when you mark your days in dirty hallways by bumming cigarettes from like-minded men.

Last year, during the waning weeks of the American occupation government, at a time when there was still some hope for establishing an honest and independent judiciary in Iraq, I drove to the Baghdad headquarters of the Iraqi Bar Association to meet with a group of young lawyers who had been praised to me by U.S. officials as agents for positive change. The change that the officials had in mind was, of course, in the direction of an American way of thinking. The headquarters was in a typically spacious Saddam-era building, mostly empty now, and typically run-down. Beyond the guards carrying Kalashnikovs, a couple of women stood talking in a dusty entrance hall. Eventually I found the young lawyers sitting loosely in a large back room. There were about twenty of them there. Some were young, and others were middle-aged. They had arranged their chairs in a large square. I had hoped for an informal exchange on the subject of the confusion at the special tribunal. I needed practical explanations. Instead, one by one, the lawyers gave me speeches. This went on for over an hour. They did not seem to have prepared their speeches in advance, but when I tried to break through, they were unable simply to talk. Repeatedly they expressed their welcome to me, their thanks to the United States, and their firm belief in the importance of modernity. They expected me to write down their words. I was aware that Iraqis are more formal and flowery than we are. But I was disturbed that they had so much time to express so little. I did not think they really meant what they said. I did not think they were actually so grateful. I sensed that beneath their words some of them seethed with frustration and, deeper still, with a growing anger toward the United States. I felt for their humiliation. And I was embarrassed for the American officials who could so easily be taken in.

Six months later it was this same Iraqi Bar Association, having been solicited by Ziad, that arranged for one of its members, Khalil al-Dulaimi, to meet with Saddam Hussein and offer him defense counsel for the first time. By then Saddam and eleven others had been "arraigned" on television in improvised proceedings of dubious meaning, which backfired politically when Saddam visibly summoned his powers of command and began to dominate the show. He and the others had been transferred as criminals to the authority of the newly sovereign Iraqi state, though physically they remained in the custody of the U.S. military, on bases near the Baghdad airport, where they continue to be held today. Saddam had gone through a year of secret intelligence interrogations, which, to the extent that they amounted to anything at all, produced classified information that could not be shown to the Iraqis or used in court. More recently he had been interviewed by prosecutors and investigative judges from the special tribunal. Otherwise he had been kept in near-total isolation, cut off from the world outside his cell except for a few visits by the Red Cross, and two letters from his family. By now, in December of 2004, Ziad had been making enough noise that this was due to change.

Dulaimi is a Sunni from a powerful tribe in the angry province of Anbar. American soldiers met him outside the bar-association building in Baghdad, loaded him into an armored car with blacked-out windows, and drove him circuitously to the base where Saddam is held. According to Ziad, Dulaimi was instructed not to shake Saddam's hand or have any physical contact with him—orders which he proudly defied when he was brought in to see the captive. Dulaimi saluted Saddam as the president of Iraq. This pleased Saddam greatly. As Ziad reconstructs the scene, the dictator's first words to Dulaimi were those of a well-known maxim: "If you are not a head, don't be anything else, because that would make you a tail." By this he meant that he had no choice but to remain the leader of Iraq. He had long hair and a thick beard. His face had aged. He had lost some weight. He was in high spirits and good health. As befits a heroic leader in times like these, he had been gardening, writing poetry, and drawing inspiration from the Koran. He said he had been tortured but remained proud and unbowed. Speaking of his own stand, he quoted from the Koran: "Don't be weak, don't grieve, for you are the best."

The meeting continued for more than four hours. Saddam was hungry for news. According to Ziad, he asked Dulaimi about the condition of the Iraqi people, of the Arab nation, and especially of the Palestinians. Dulaimi described the Iraqi resistance. Saddam expressed his satisfaction, and said that the struggle was proceeding according to plan. He called Bush a liar, and predicted that he would leave Iraq a defeated man—"through the small door," he said, by which he meant ignobly. He praised Germany and France for their opposition to American aggression, and welcomed Spain's withdrawal from the fight. He sent his greetings to the other detained Iraqi leaders. At the sound of combat jets flying overhead, he guessed that the target was Fallujah, and he expressed concern for the people there. When Dulaimi told him about the plan for national elections, he warned of an American scheme to divide Iraq. He said that Kurds, Shiites, Sunnis, and Christians needed to stand united against the American plot. He quoted from the Koran: "Hold on to God's law, and do not scatter."

For the defendants, however, it is not God's laws but those of the special tribunal that would seem to matter. In Amman with Ziad, I kept pressing for evidence of a tangible defense. Eventually we got past the idea of the court's illegitimacy, and proceeded to the near certainty that the trials would soon begin. We crossed the question of whether witnesses had seen these defendants killing anyone, bridged the concepts of command authority and criminal conspiracy, and came at last to what appeared to be Ziad's plan to deny, for each charge, that these crimes had actually been committed. On the subject of the 1988 Anfal campaign against the Kurds—an ethnic roundup that is said to have killed at least 50,000 people, and has often been called a genocide—Ziad said, "It was a response to a public disorder. And it has to be compared in one way or another to the actions of the United States itself in the case of a state of mutiny." This seemed chancy for courtroom use, since even in civil war there are customary (and treaty-based) limitations on the slaughter of civilians—but at least the argument lay in the realm of reality. I suggested that there is a difference between the political and the legal use of the word "genocide"—that the legal definition is necessarily strict, and that a prosecution based on it might be defeated by evidence that despite all the dead, many Kurds captured in the Anfal campaign were ultimately released. This is a problem that the prosecutors in Baghdad are of course aware of. And of course Ziad gladly agreed.

Gradually, however, it became clear that Ziad plans not to argue such points of law but to debate the history on which each charge is built. For example, the use of gas against the northern town of Halabja, which caused at least 4,000 civilian deaths on a single day in March of 1988: though most observers at the time concluded that the attack was the work of the Iraqi military, and that it was directed against a Kurdish insurgency that had allied itself with invaders from Iran, countertheories have always existed, and continue to float on the Internet today. Ziad said, "Documents from the Pentagon that we have obtained, and from the CIA also, prove that the gas was in the hands of the Iranian army, not the Iraqi army. So Halabja was not gassed by the Iraqis. When Iran and Iraq were fighting, and Rumsfeld looked from high above, he knew everything about it. And he believes that the gas was in the hands of the Iranians."

The conversation proceeded to the subject of mass graves, and particularly to those in the south, where the bodies of slain civilians were dumped during another prosecutable offense—the suppression of the Shiite rebellion that followed Iraq's 1991 defeat in Kuwait. Ziad said, "Tony Blair has said that the mass graves are a lie."

I said, "Tony Blair?"

"Yes. We have that on the Internet. And they consider the suppression of the rebellion as an act of war, not a war crime." He did not specify who "they" are. Without explaining the relevance to his courtroom plans, he said, "We have about two thousand names of Iraqi soldiers who were slaughtered by the Kuwaiti army while they were withdrawing from Kuwait."

As to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, which constitutes another prosecution charge at the special tribunal, Ziad's point was essentially that the Kuwaitis deserved what they got. He said, "Kuwaitis exploited the weakness of Iraq after the war [with Iran] to pump huge quantities of oil. The Kuwaitis were boasting that they were going to fuck Iraqi women for ten dollars each. For Arabs and Muslims in general, this insult means a lot. We also have to take into consideration the fact that Kuwait was historically part of Iraq. And that Iraq, with all of its space, doesn't have a coast. Allawi on the TV has boasted that he was an agent of the CIA—but even such a man, if he had been in charge, his first priority would have been to take back Kuwait. I mean any Iraqi, whatever his brief, his first priority would have been to take Kuwait."

Saddam's invasion of Kuwait was indeed popular in Iraq at the time, and it remains justifiable in the minds of many Iraqis today. But in Ziad's mixture of fact and fantasy, in his confusion of ideas, it was hard to see the possibilities for anything like a legal defense. I found myself sympathizing with him, despite his obvious enthusiasm for the killing of Westerners in Iraq. He seems to be an honorable person, hardworking, and probably intelligent enough. I appreciated the fact that he is not slick in the manner of an American hired gun—that the very contradictions in his arguments make it apparent that he is sincere. But he is suffering from profound isolation. It is the isolation of being an Arab in Amman, educated at the local university but cut off from significant contact with the outside world, smothered by his culture's history of defeat, starved on the thin gruel of a censored press, and kept from the sort of practical information that he needs to do his job. He cannot go to the United States. He cannot go to Iraq. He has been denied access to the defendants in prison. He has been denied access to the documentary evidence that is slowly being entered into a database in Baghdad. He has seen no depositions, and does not know if they have been taken. He has not been informed of the rules of evidence and procedure. He has not been informed of the charges. He says that the closest contact he has had is with the Iraqi minister of justice, Malik Dohan al-Hassan, who warned him in Beirut several months ago that if he appeared in Baghdad, he would be cut into little pieces. He read the warning as a promise. There have been no phone calls from the officials at the tribunal. Ziad's letters have remained unanswered. Abandoned, therefore, like so many other frustrated intellects in the world today, he wanders through the wilds of the Internet, reassured by the appearance of a global connection, but essentially alone and exposed to the Internet's depredations. He refers to it often in conversation as if it were an authority in itself. And this in turn explains a lot.

It is understandable if the American and Iraqi officials at the special tribunal in Baghdad have not catered to Ziad's needs. From their perspective, he is a Jordanian grandstander, with his silly ISNAD, his 2,000 lawyers, and his feverish insistence on the heroism of Saddam Hussein. He is not exactly a clown, but he brings a carnival atmosphere to this whole affair. Moreover, though he appears to have Saddam's approval, and is widely represented in the press as the lead defense attorney, he will probably never appear in court, and may ultimately prove to be irrelevant. Or not. Either way, there are public defenders already in Baghdad who are agreeably anonymous, who comply with the nominal requirements of a defense, and who can be counted on not to gum up the procedures or go wild in public. To questions about the quality of these lawyers the approved answer is that they are "smart." In other words, they are smart enough. The tribunal officials are besieged. They move about inside the fortified Green Zone in an atmosphere of fear, hemmed in by the rows of blast walls that grow along the streets in a perfect representation of the politics involved. Because their challenges are practical, their horizons are near. They have to get this tribunal up and running, finish the necessary construction, train the judges and prosecutors, rehearse the procedures, and resolve the details of public access and the question of what the "openness" of an open court really means. They have to prepare the evidence and arguments for the first few cases. Oh, and the telephones don't work. And their own people keep getting killed in the war outside.

It is probably unfair to expect officials under such pressures to have stood back and contemplated the larger task, but it might have helped if they had. For the tribunal to succeed amid the human desolation of the Middle East, the defense teams need just as much support and attention as the prosecutors and judges have turned out to require. There is no doubt about the guilt of Saddam Hussein and his men. They will be convicted, and it is likely that some will be sentenced to die. But they need to be well defended if it is ever to be believed that they were well tried. The symmetry is necessary. The theater matters. Helping an advocate like Ziad is politically difficult and no certain thing, but if only for the sake of appearances, the tribunal could have benefited from trying—providing ISNAD with an office and lodgings inside the Green Zone, giving the group ample time with the prisoners, arranging for access to the seized documents, and perhaps even providing a research staff. Assistance to ISNAD would have shown fairness and courage. Instead, increasingly, what the tribunal has shown is fear.

The twist is that in his very isolation—in his fevers about conspiracy, his wanderings of the Internet, his anger over the use of American power—Ziad embodies just the audience that the tribunal needs to address. The tribunal has little real purpose other than that. Moreover, by excluding him, and forcing all those like him outside, it may end up empowering him, and playing into Saddam's hands. Saddam cannot really believe, as Ziad maintains, that someday he will be freed. He is playing to history, as he long has, on a thousand-year plan. It is possible that he does not even care whether he is sentenced to death, and that Ziad out of necessity will end up not caring either. Indeed, there are signs already that Saddam's conviction will mark his second coming. And if that turns out to be true, Ziad will have won after all.

William Langewiesche is a national correspondent for The Atlantic.
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William Langewiesche

"Enclosed are Two Pieces on Algeria." With those words, typed on plain white bond, William Langewiesche introduced himself to the editors of The Atlantic Monthly. Although neither piece quite stood on its own, the editors were drawn to the unusual grace and power of Langewiesche's writing and sent him on assignment to North Africa for a more ambitious piece of reporting. The result was the November 1991, cover story, "The World in Its Extreme"—his first article to appear in a general-interest magazine. (He had, however, written frequently for aviation magazines; he is a professional pilot and first sat at the controls of an airplane at the age of five.) Since that article, from which his book Sahara Unveiled: A Journey Across the Desert (1996) grew, Langewiesche has reported on a diversity of subjects and published four more books.

A large part of Mr. Langewiesche's reporting experience centers around the Middle East and the Islamic world. He has traveled widely throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa, reporting on such topics as the implementation of the shari'a in Sudan under Hassan al-Tarabi, North Africa's Islamic culture, and the American occupation of Iraq. Other recent assignments have taken him to Egypt, the Balkans, India, and Central and South America. In 2004 he won a National Magazine Award for excellence in reporting.

In 2002 his book American Ground: Unbuilding The World Trade Center was published. It is based on a series of three cover stories he wrote for The Atlantic as the only American reporter granted full access to the World Trade Center clean-up effort. His latest book, The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime, was published in May 2004.

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